Bay Area Skeptics

The San Francisco Bay Area's skeptical organization since 1982

Hello again, dear commendably curious person,

NASA just announced that the ISS will be ‘deorbited’ in January 2030 using three Russian rockets, and that future space stations will be built and operated by private industry. NASA just released this somewhat premature In Memoriam. Where are the burning pieces of the ISS going to land? At Point Nemo, the home of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu

I decided to list a few ISS statistics for you and me:

  • Continuously occupied since November 2000
  • Each of the 16 solar panels is about 35 x 5 meters
  • Pressurized volume: 915 cu. meters / 32,300 cu. feet
  • OrbitAltitude – 420 km / 260 mi; Period – 93 mins; Speed – 27,600 kph / 17,100 mph
  • Distance traveled to date: 5.6 billion km / 3.5 billion mi (distance to Uranus and back)

Last week i rambled on about the JWST orbiting the L2 Legrange point. Here is a video on that.

NASA has an interactive 3D view of JWST. Go here, click on “Webb in 3d Solar System,” then use your mouse to manipulate the view.

Of the readers who entered the contest to win the laser-cut kit for an 8-inch JWST model, Madalyn was the winner. We have another one to give away this week. Just send an email to (only one) before noon Friday with an integer between zero and 1,000. We will then use a random number generator to select the target number and mail the kit to the person who chose the closest number.


New infections are declining; new deaths are still high; over 900,000 Americans have died from the disease; new strains continue to be discovered; 76% of Americans have received at least one COVID vaccine dose. Although the global death toll is listed at a bit under five million, the true count is likely twice that – or more

I just learned of more of the many ‘reasons’ some refuse to be vaccinated: cognitive shortcuts including anchoring bias. Whether you are already vaccinated – or you are holding out, this essay by Dr. Schmitz rings true.

New Zealand will begin allowing its citizens to return later this month. In its phased plan, visitors will be allowed into the country starting in October. All, citizens included, will be required to self-isolate for 10 days after entry.

An Australian professor rebuts the idea that COVID will become “endemic” in the strict sense of that term. Instead, she says it will continue to be an epidemic disease, similar to measles and influenza.

¿Looking to make big bucks? You might try monetizing COVID disinformation.


A year ago, the U.S. Postal Service awarded a contract for as many as 160,000 new mail trucks to replace the Long Life Vehicles (LLVs) now in service since 1987. Ninety percent will be gasoline-powered. OUCH! Finally, this last week, the Biden administration launched an effort to halt or amend the contract due to climate concerns. Nearly half a billion dollars have already been given to the winning contractor.

The New York Times just released 193 ‘“Postcards from a World on Fire,” properly labeled as “Opinion.” I admit to reading, watching, and listening nonstop to the end.

Boat slips on the Great Salt Lake in Utah

The Great Salt Lake is now at a record low in spite of efforts to return it to former levels.

Geothermal energy production could theoretically be employed anywhere on Earth; just drill two holes near each other down to where the rock is hot, use fracking to create cracks between the drill holes, pump ‘cooled’ water down one hole (the injection well) and pump the heated water up the other (production well), then use the hot water to power electric turbines. Problem: (1) fracking sometimes fails; (2) the cracks often close down partially or completely due to mineral deposits or when pressure is reduced during equipment maintenance. [Drum roll…] Enter the “micro drilling turbine.” It is claimed that this device can make numerous 3.6 cm holes extending out 50 meters from drill holes, augmenting cracks or replacing them altogether. We shall see whether it lives up to the hype. But wait! There’s more! Earth may cool down faster than previously believed!! Geothermal energy production might not be viable in another billion years.

I recommend that you do not click on this link to a deep dive into wheat farming in Mexico and a greenhouse gas until you can put aside the time. It is long and involved, but well worth it.

Livestream picks for the week

Outside activity of the week

Here are stories of an Australian Thunderbird (not the Ford car) with osteomyelitis and an unhatched oviraptorosaur egg.

Enjoy being adventurous and empathetic this week, 

Dave Almandsmith, Bay Area Skeptics

“Science is often caricatured as a purely empirical and objective pursuit. But in reality, a scientist’s interpretation of the world is influenced by the data she collects, which are influenced by the experiments she designs, which are influenced by the questions she thinks to ask, which are influenced by her identity, her values, her predecessors, and her imagination.”
– Ed Yong

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